Chronic abuse of alcohol has a devastating effect on the human body. Since alcohol is metabolized through the liver, it is easy to damage this organ if you drink too much alcohol. Signs of liver damage include yellowing of eyes and skin, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and overall weakness. Sufficient damage, to the point that the liver can no longer perform its crucial functions, can result in liver failure.
Milk thistle has many beneficial healing effects. One of the most common is its ability to restore liver cells that have been damaged by alcohol, cirrhosis, hepatitis C or other diseases of the liver. Known as a "smart herb," milk thistle has the ability to target damaged cells in order to help them regenerate. It is called a smart herb because it also knows when to inhibit cell growth, as in the case of cancerous tumor cells.
The medicinal properties of the herb are in the seeds of the milk thistle flower. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, works to form a barrier to liver toxins to prevent them from penetrating and wreaking havoc with liver cells. It also helps repair already damaged liver cells. Milk thistle also contains antioxidant properties that rival vitamins C and E.
The FDA has not evaluated milk thistle, but the commonly accepted dose for liver protection is 1-2 capsules (200-400mg of silymarin) twice daily or 12 to 15 grams of the dried herb infused in warm water. Though side effects are uncommon, pregnant women and young children should not take milk thistle without checking with their healthcare professional first. Those with allergies to asters and related flowers should avoid milk thistle as a severe allergic reaction may occur.